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The Influence of Conduct Problems and Callous-Unemotional Traits on Academic Development Among Youth

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Abstract

The present study attempted to address developmental differences within the large group of youth with conduct problems through an examination of the relationship between callous-unemotional traits and academic outcomes in an effort to expand the field’s understanding of heterogeneity in outcomes associated with behavior problems. Data were collected from a cohort of 3rd grade students (N = 942; 51 % female; 45.6 % Hispanic/Latino, 41.1 % Black/African American, 4.7 % Non-Hispanic White; mean age = 8.07 years) in eighteen public elementary schools, as well as their parents and teachers. Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that callous-unemotional traits were associated with lower quality student–teacher relationships and worse performance on standardized math and reading exams over and above the effects of conduct problems. These findings suggest that school-based interventions may be particularly effective in ameliorating some of the deficits noted within this subset of youth exhibiting conduct problems. This finding has important policy implications as the field of developmental science attempts to design and enrich programs that focus on improving social-emotional learning.

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Authors’ Contributions

JLB, SMJ, and JLA collected the data used in this study as part of a larger, prospective, longitudinal study examining the effectiveness of a school-based social-emotional learning and literacy program that followed one cohort of children from elementary school through high school. Under the mentorship of JLB, JMH conceived of this specific study that uses these data. JMH conducted the literature review, ran the study analyses, and drafted the manuscript. JLB, SMH, and JLA extensively revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content and provided feedback on analytic revisions. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jacqueline M. Horan.

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Horan, J.M., Brown, J.L., Jones, S.M. et al. The Influence of Conduct Problems and Callous-Unemotional Traits on Academic Development Among Youth. J Youth Adolescence 45, 1245–1260 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0349-2

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